A hero’s return to his home town

Douglas McDavid and Ian MacHattie
Douglas McDavid and Ian MacHattie

As a football daft nine-year old in Creetown, Douglas McDavid was in awe of one of the local boys, Ian MacHattie, who made it as a professional footballer, signing for Crystal Palace in 1969.

Fast forward 45 years, Douglas is now a successful hotelier running the Selkirk Arms in Kirkcudbright and who should walk through the door recently - Ian MacHattie of course.

Ian, who now lives in Somerset, began his footballing career in the 1960s playing for his school teams, firstly Creetown Primary, then The Douglas Ewart High School, as well as for school boy select teams for the region and his home team in Creetown before signing for the now defunct Tarff Rovers of Kirkcowan.

He only played nine games for Tarff scoring three goals in 1969/70 season from the right wing but his talent as a footballer was soon spotted and in October 1969 the Galloway Gazette reported:

“Seventeen year old Ian MacHattie, Palnure Post Office, signed for Crystal Palace on Wednesday. Ian, who formerly played for Tarff Rovers has contributed much to the recent successes of the Kirkcowan team. He played regularly for the Douglas Ewart High School where he was a sixth year pupil, and played for the Dumfries and Galloway Schools team, the Scottish ATC team and Creetown Amateurs. Two weeks ago he joined Crystal Palace for a ten-day trial and his last game was for Tarff Rovers on Saturday.”

MacHattie never cracked a regular place in the Palace first team so moved to Canada to play for the Toronto Metros where he came up against the great Pele who was playing out his last days with the New York Cosmos.

Ian had been staying at the Selkirk Arms while he was visiting family in the area, and Douglas did a double take when he saw the name on the registration form. He found Ian in the bar enjoying a quiet pint and, once his guest’s identity was established, Douglas introduced himself, telling Ian what a hero he had been to him as a schoolboy in Creetown.

The two men spent the rest of the afternoon talking football and Ian expressed a wish to meet up with his teammates from all those years ago.

That opportunity came up shorty after when Ian was invited back home to Creetown to present the trophy at the Ben Herries Challenge game.

The years rolled back for Ian as he met familiar faces on familiar turf. He said: “It was wonderful, I met up with guys I hadn’t seen for 40 years.

“I was just a football daft boy from Creetown who was only 14-years old when the Creetown manager took the decision to stick me in the men’s team. Many thought I was too small, but the committee at Creetown believed in me and I managed to survive. That did my confidence the world of good. You need to give youngsters a chance.

“Thanks to having the experience of playing with the men at Creetown, when I moved to England I was able to hold my own down there, as it could be a dog eat dog world!

“I remember the day I came off the pitch after playing a game at Gatehouse and some guy coming up to me and saying: ‘Do you want to play professionally?’. I was stunned. I though he was joking.

“During my time with Crystal Palace I played against marvellous players like Bobby Moore and Alan Hudson and alongside Eddie McCreadie. When I was with Toronto I played against famous players like Pele, Graham Souness, Trevor Francis and Kenny Burns.

“I turned up that day at Creetown looking for familiar faces and within five minutes I had met up with my old pal Eric Houston. It was just a wonderful day reminiscing about the past. Eric presented me with a Creetown club tie, which is now a treasured possession.

“I must mention the massive support I got from my parents especially my dad who went as far as painting goalposts under the bridge in Bridge Street in Creetown so I could still practice with a tennis ball when it was raining. You can still see the goalposts 50 years on.”